So, what's a travel consultant supposed to do when the invitation comes from Tahiti Tourisme to escape the office for a week and explore the very best resorts in French Polynesia? Nothing but accept graciously and start packing.
Prior to flying there, I had always bought into the idea that Tahiti and her islands were just 'so far away'. It could be because it is located over the international date line, or the fact that it takes two flights to get there.
However, it was a myth that was debunked in one very easy and comfortable journey – a quick flight to Auckland, short transit and a very relaxed five hour trip from Auckland to Papeete – with that serene, understated Polynesian service.
Air Tahiti Nui flies three times a week via Auckland to Papeete on the main island of Tahiti. The international airport at Papeete is charming and welcoming. A quick time through immigration and we were on the way to our obligatory stopover.
If you want to get to the outer islands, it is almost impossible to avoid a night in either direction in Papeete, so you just need to embrace it as a part of your holiday experience.
For one night, we stayed at Le Méridien Tahiti – a lovely property to rest and recover from the travelling. The next morning we were up early to explore the markets and downtown Papeete before hopping on the exceptionally quick Ferry to Moorea.
I had no idea what to expect and Moorea was a revelation to me. It's a truly spectacular little island with much to offer both honeymooners and families looking for a their next adventure in the Pacific.
The InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa was a perfect place to start, with its dolphin centre and turtles, you're never far from marine life and the gorgeous water. Set against a lovely beach, with overwater bungalows and fabulous food, there is much to do here. I was taking notes and making plans.
Onto the Moorea Pearl Resort & Spa where we were quickly spotted as a group of travel consultants by two guests who went out of their way to tell us how amazing a holiday they were having and how brilliant the staff and resort were. There really is no better endorsement than a happy and relaxed guest.
Travelling around Moorea, we went past Cooks Bay and saw the beautiful Paul Gauguin cruise ship moored there. Suddenly my plans were changing. "What about a cruise around French Polynesia?" I thought. What an absolutely perfect way to see a few of the islands in effortless comfort.
Either way, I could absolutely see myself going back with a big group of friends to celebrate a milestone birthday. It's the perfect base for all of the water activities, horse riding and adventure activities such as quad biking that Moorea has to offer, with a fantastic laid back island vibe.
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Our final resting place in Moorea was the Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort, a beautiful jewel of a resort on the most stunning of lagoons. With an extraordinary beach area, picture postcard beach and overwater bungalows, it is no wonder this resort is so popular for Tahitian-style weddings.
Once again, experiencing that tranquil and gentle Polynesian service, we were treated to the very best the resort has to offer. Snorkeling is a must do here, as the natural reef is shallow, easily accessible and teeming with colourful fish.
Then we were bound for Bora Bora, I simply could not wait to get to the ultimate paradise island. Spying the imposing Mt. Otemanu from the aircraft and the surrounding opaque reefs, in every variation of turquoise, was truly breathtaking. A real 'moment' for anyone who loves to travel and has a bit of a bucket list to get through.
Bora Bora is often described as the 'ultimate in luxury', and I don't think that's any exaggeration. It's heavenly blue waters and spectacular resorts are both stunning and welcoming in equal measure. For those of us escaping a life that is so busy, to slow down in such a place really is the ultimate in luxury.
Bora Bora is definitely the first place honeymooners are interested in, however it's an amazing destination for families and groups of friends as well, as it has so many amazing experiences that you would want to share with those close to you.
Hosted by the wonderful team at The St. Regis Bora Bora, we stayed in a pristine bungalow over the water and as soon as we had unpacked, were diving into the lagoon to swim in the perfectly temperate waters there. From the spa, the the restaurants to the pool areas, everywhere we went was like being in a living postcard.
Romantic Tour Bora Bora took us out to experience the destination: we snorkeled with reef sharks, fed the playful and sweet manta rays, swam in lagoons and had fabulous 'motu picnic' in the water. Each place and experience more wonderful as the day went on.
We also were fortunate to visit other iconic resorts such as Le Méridien Bora Bora (perfect beach bungalows for families), InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa (the most amazing spa on the planet), Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort (for that castaway island vibe) and the Sofitel Bora Bora Private Island (tiny and peaceful) during our short time. All are unique and memorable, and I would have been happy to stay in any of them.
Leaving French Polynesia wasn't too difficult because I knew I'd be back in the very near future. The difficult part is trying to decide what to do and where to stay as I feel like there is so much more to discover.
Mainly, I know that I will have the most extraordinary holiday, a combination of rare beauty and hospitality, of understated luxury and complete relaxation. I can't wait to start packing to go there again.
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